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10 Wimbledon Break Points

10 points worth further discussion following a dramatic fortnight

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Novak Djokovic (zimbio.com)

This year’s Wimbledon Championships has been one filled with drama. From the longest men’s semi-final match of all time to Serena Williams’ impressive comeback. It will be a tournament that many will remember for years, but there are some topics that needs to be looked at.

 

1) The best-of-five format without a final set tiebreak needs to go. Now.

I could rant for thousands of words regarding all the reasons why the over six-and-a-half hour semifinal between Kevin Anderson and John Isner was utterly absurd. But at 15-15 in the fifth set, Patrick McEnroe summed up the situation perfectly on ESPN in the US:
“Maybe, just maybe this will be the match that gets the rule changed … There needs to be a tiebreak at some point in a final set. For the crowd, for these players, for you watching at home, for the other players [Nadal and Djokovic] … For the good of the game is the bottom line.”

2) Gender equality in court assignments has improved, but we’re not fully there yet.

Following this year’s Australian Open, I was critical of Tennis Australia for not providing the women’s matches the same platform as the men’s. For most of this year’s Wimbledon, I actually thought the AELTC did a good job in showing equality in their show court assignments. Yes, the “Manic Monday” schedule featured four men’s matches between Centre Court and No.1 Court, with the women only getting two spots. But with so many top women’s seeds not even making the second week, there were more men’s matches deserving of a show court assignment on that particular day. I’m sure fans with show court tickets would have been frustrated if any of those four men’s matches were played elsewhere. Where things became really complicated for the AELTC was when the men’s semifinals were not completed on Friday. Nadal and Djokovic were brought back the next day with a 1:00pm start, which delayed the women’s championship match by over two hours. While there was no perfect solution here, the tournament should have played the women’s final first, and waited to have Nadal and Djokovic play thereafter. That would have been far from ideal for the winner of Nadal and Djokovic, having to come back less than 24 hours later to play the final, but the men’s semifinals should not trump the women’s final. That decision however was not as bad as the tournament bumping the women’s doubles final to No.1 Court, while the men’s doubles final played out on Centre Court. I realize there wasn’t enough time to play both on Centre, and the men’s double final actually needed the roof closed to finish the fifth set, but bumping the women from Centre Court altogether was a really bad look for the tournament. If both doubles finals couldn’t be completed on Centre, then they both should have moved to No.1 Court. And you know how all of this could have been avoided? See point #1.

3) All things considered, tennis continues to be way ahead of the curve in terms of equality.

No other major sport showcases the men and women side-by-side on the same stage. The World Cup doesn’t feature the women with the men. You don’t see the WNBA playing alongside the NBA. Of course we should still strive for full equality in the sport, but the tennis world deserves credit for being a progressive leader in this way.

4) How can officials miss three calls on one shot?

During Djokovic’s third round match against Kyle Edmund, Novak had break point in the fourth set, and was just a few games away from victory. Djokovic hit a drop shot, and as Edmund ran forward and scooped the ball cross court, it would appear the ball bounced twice before he hit it. The replay would confirm this, yet Chair Umpire Jake Garner decided otherwise and awarded Edmund the point. After arguing this with Garner, Djokovic would then ask to challenge whether Edmund’s ball even landed in. However, Garner wouldn’t allow the challenge, claiming Djokovic had waited too long. The TV replay would clearly show the ball landed out. Replays also appeared to show that Edmund’s feet rain into the net before his shot bounced twice. That’s at least two, and a maximum of three ways in which Edmund should have lost the point, but not one of those calls were made. Edmund went on to hold his serve in a game where it clearly should’ve been broken. As Brad Gilbert has stated for many years, players should be allowed to challenge incidentals such as double bounces and net touches. This was as embarrassing a mistake as the 2004 Wimbledon, when the chair umpire miscalled the score during a second set tiebreak of Venus Williams’ second round match, which prematurely awarded victory to her opponent. In this case, at least Djokovic still won the set and the match, so justice prevailed in the end. And in poetic justice, Djokovic’s serve on match point was out, yet called in. However, Edmund had no challenges remaining, so the match was over. These were a truly bizarre few games to end the first week of play on Centre Court.

5) Déjà vu with Makarova

At least year’s US Open, Ekaterina Makarova appeared near-tears after dropping the second tiebreak, as she had been up a set and a break over Caroline Wozniacki. Makarova then took a bathroom break close to 10 minutes in length, which completely upset the flow of the match. Ekaterina would win the third set 6-1. At Wimbledon, Makarova would apply the same exact tactic against the same exact opponent. After losing the second set to Wozniacki 6-1, she again took an extended bathroom break, and returned to the court to win the match. Is anyone going to do anything about this pure gamesmanship? I would really like to stop writing about this, especially in regards to the same player.

6) It’s déjà vu all over again with Wozniacki

During her fourth round loss to Daria Kasatkina last month at Roland Garros, Wozniacki basically imposed her own work stoppage. Already trailing in the match, Wozniacki held up play for several minutes by arguing with officials that it was too dark to play. During her Wimbledon loss to Makarova, at 4-1 in the third, Wozniacki stopped playing to argue it was raining too hard to continue. Thankfully the Wimbledon officials promptly dismissed her complaint and told her to play on. Bravo to the officials for taking charge in these situations, and not bowing to one player’s wishes. And then we practically had a third déjà vu moment in this same match. At the Australian Open earlier this year, Wozniacki came back from 5-1 down in the third set of her second round match to win, saving a match point on the way. In this match against Makarova, Wozniacki was again down 5-1 in the third, and saved four match points to get back to 5-5. However this time, she lost the match 7-5. When Wozniacki and Makarova meet, the drama never ends. Following this match, as David Law reported on Twitter, Wozniacki said of Makarova’s tournament chances, “‘I would be very surprised if she goes far.” Geez. The behavior of both women is unbecoming of the sport.

7) Thankfully, this fortnight will be remembered much more for sportsmanship than gamesmanship.

Embed from Getty Images

The embraces shared by Nadal and Del Potro, Anderson and Isner, and Kerber and Serena at the conclusion of their matches were heart-warming. The ability to show such admiration and compassion for your opponent immediately after competing against them is what makes sport great. Especially notable were Anderson’s comments to the BBC in his post-match interview, where he described his struggle to even be happy for himself after winning his marathon semifinal due to how badly he felt for Isner’s loss. Well done, ladies and gents.

8) Reducing the amount of seeds in the draws is completely unnecessary. In fact, it’s harmful and unfair

Starting with next year’s Australian Open, the Majors will only seed 16 players instead of 32. In this tournament’s women’s singles draw, none of the top 10 seeds made the quarterfinals. While this was an extreme case of upsets, surprising first week results at the Majors are far from uncommon. Seeding only 16 players will cause more first week excitement and upsets, but will result in lower-quality matchups in the second week. There are plenty of players ranked below 16th in the world who are fully deserving of some draw protection. And in an era where we cling to so many all-time greats in the twilight of their careers, we will regret making it more challenging for them to go deep at Grand Slam events. This change should be immediately re-considered.

9) The on-court serve clock is not going to speed up play in any significant or consistent way.

The summer hard court events in North America will introduce an on-court serve clock, with the following guidelines announced per the US Open Series website:

“Players will have 25 seconds to begin their service motion, although a chair umpire will have the ability and discretion to pause the clock. They will have the ability to resume the clock from the same time or reset the clock to 25 seconds.
During a game, this 25-second clock will begin once the chair umpire has announced the score following the previous point. The receiver is responsible for playing to the server’s reasonable pace.
If the player has not started the service motion at the completion of the 25-second countdown, the chair umpire will issue a time violation.
After even-numbered games, the chair umpire will start the clock when the balls are all in place on the server’s end of the court.”

Slow-playing men like Nadal and Djokovic have spoken out against this implementation, but is anything going to really change? I just don’t see most chair umpires penalizing these superstars beyond a warning. These guidelines leave a lot of discretion in the hands of the umpires, as they can pause or reset the clock as they see fit, and are not required to immediately call the score as a point concludes. We already saw this during the semifinal between Nadal and Djokovic, where the chair umpire would often pause for a significant amount of time before calling the score, and thus delaying the start of the serve clock. And if different umpires will start the clock at different intervals, there’s no fairness in that. These rules leave room for too much discretion. I applaud the effort for transparency, but the impact here will be minimal at best.

10) Neither singles final was all that captivating, but cheers to the resiliency of all four finalists

Less than a year after a complicated child birth and multiple operations, Serena Williams returned to the ladies’ championship match in just her fourth tournament in 18 months. After an abysmal 2017 season which saw almost as many losses as wins, Angelique Kerber defeats the GOAT for the second time in a Major final, and for her first Venus Rosewater Dish. Dispelling a reputation for choking when it matters, Anderson saves match point to come back from two sets down against a 20-time Major champion, and somehow rebounds two days later to win a near-seven hour semifinal. Following two years of emotional and physical failures, Novak Djokovic reasserts his greatness by ousting Nadal in an epic semifinal, and winning his 13th Major. This fortnight provided us with plenty of inspiration.

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Nadal, Djokovic And Federer Excelled On Manic Monday And That Isn’t A Good Thing

Why the dominance of the trio at Wimbledon should be admired, but not celebrated.

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WIMBLEDON: On a day where all the fourth round matches took place at The All England Club there was an inevitability in the men’s draw.

 

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic all proved why they are the top three seeds. Producing a display that overwhelmed and frustrated their opponents. The trio along with Andy Murray have won the past 16 Wimbledon titles. A true testament to their dominance in the sport. On the other hand, it is also a somewhat mixed situation for the world of men’s tennis.

“I wasn’t feeling so good about my strokes, my serve, my forehand, backhand, everything. I wasn’t feeling so good, I didn’t expect to be tight, to be maybe not ready, but not like this.” Matteo Berrettini said following his loss to Federer.
“I was saying to myself that it was normal, for me, it was my first time on Centre Court against him.”

The brick wall put up by the Big Three at The All England Club can only be compared with the Great Wall of China. A gigantic structure that requires a huge effort to conquer it. Yet it is possible to scale it and people have done before. So there is one question that arises. Is the Big Three too good or are their challengers on the court not good enough?

World No.1 Novak Djokovic shed some light on the situation shortly after his straight-sets win over Ugo Humbert. The only member of the Next Generation to reach the last 16 of the tournament. Djokovic has been a giant in the world of grand slam tennis within the past 12 months. Winning three titles and reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

“I think we are working as hard as anybody really to be there. I think the experience we have helps confidence, everything that we have achieved in our careers obviously we carry onto the court, then most of the players feel that, feel the pressure.” He said.
“For us, it’s another match on the center stage that we’ve experienced so many times. I think that’s one of the reasons why we, I guess, feel comfortable being there and managing to play our best consistently.”

Experience certainly pays it part. 14 out of the 16 players to reach the fourth round are over the age of 27 and eight of those are over the age of 30. However, when the older guys of the tour has had a shot on Manic Monday in the past against the Big Three they fell short. What is it that they are doing wrong?

“I think the best guys now are fully engaged, they know exactly what to expect from the court and the conditions. That helps us to play better.” Explains Federer.
“I think with experience, that’s good. We haven’t dropped much energy in any way. It’s not like we’re coming in with an empty tank into the second week.’
“All these little things help us to then really thrive in these conditions. I don’t know what else it is.”

Fortunately, Federer and Co are human. Even if it is hard to believe when they illustrate such breathtaking tennis at times. Serena Williams describes Federer’s play as that similar to an elegant Ballerina. The way he moves around the court effortlessly and dictates the points.

One people aiming to rain on the parade of the big guns is Sam Querrey. A 31-year-old American who reached the semi-finals of the major back in 2017. Against Tennys Sandgren on Monday, he produced 25 aces and won 83% of his first service points on route to victory. Setting up a clash with Nadal. Somebody who he beat in their last meeting back in 2017, but trails their overall head-to-head 1-5.

“In order to kind of break that streak, it’s most likely beating Rafa, Federer, Djokovic. The mountain gets very steep from here to break that trend, but I’m going to do the best I can.” Said Querrey.
“I like playing here (at Wimbledon). I’m comfortable here. This seems to be the slam where you’ve got odd results, if you want to call them, over the, you know, last 25 years.”

In an era that is dominated by a selected group of players, there are both admiration and frustration among both players and fans. Their achievements have been incredible, but when will a fresh face live up to the hype on a consistent basis? Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are all huge threats. Just not on a regular enough basis.

“I am not thinking about sending a message about the next generation, how they are coming or not. I know they’re good.” Nadal stated.
“I know there is going to be a day where they are going to be in front of us because they will play better than us or because we are leaving (the sport), we are not kids anymore. That’s all.”
“It is special what we achieved in the last 15 years. Something special, difficult to repeat I think, so many titles between three players. But sometimes these kinds of things happen.”

Men’s tennis is undoubtedly in the midst of a unique period with some of the greatest ever players taking to the court’s. However, is their dominance too much of a good thing?

Only time will tell when the trio retires and men’s tennis are left facing the prospect of trying to fill in their shoes. A task that is as exciting as it is terrifying for the next contingent of players.

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Wimbledon: Where The Young Guns Of Men’s Tennis Failed To Deliver

The grass promised to be a surface where shocks could occur. Instead, the future stars of the sport endured a nightmare.

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photo by Roberto Dell'Olivo

WIMBLEDON: There was a sense of optimism that this year’s Wimbledon Championships would see the younger protagonists of the men’s tour finally have their breakthrough. In reality, it was a tournament filled with disappointment for almost all of them.

 

Heading into the second week of the grass-court major only two players left are under the age of 25. Ugo Humbert at the age of 23 and Matteo Barratini at 21. It is a sharp contrast to the women’s draw, which has been shaken by the rise of 15-year-old Cori Gauff. Two-time French open finalist Dominic Thiem, multiple Masters champion Alexander Zverev and Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas all fell at the first hurdle.

“I lost my first rounds ’99, 2000, had a run in 2001, then lost first round again 2002. I don’t know if it was because of lack of experience.” Federer reflected about the misfortunes of his younger rivals.
“The panic can set in quickly on this surface. I don’t know if that’s got something to do, and if age calms the nerves there. I’m not sure. I think also it’s maybe a moment in time.”

John McEnroe had previously tipped Tsitsipas to have a deep run at The All England Club. Commenting about the Next Generation earlier this week, the former world No.1 told BBC TV he ‘was still waiting for them to come.’ To a certain extent, he is correct. Although they have previously shined on the ATP Tour winning titles. So what makes grand slams so much harder?

“We know how hard it is to beat Novak, how hard it is to beat Rafa here. Me, as well.” Federer explained. “I have a great record here. We obviously also have better draws because we’re seeded, and we’re away from the bigger seeds earlier.’
“Our path to the fourth round is definitely not as hard as maybe some of the younger guys on the tour, as well.”

Grand slams are played in a best-of-five format. Some would argue that the longer matches can take it tolls on the rising stars of the game. However, the likes of Boris Becker and Rafael Nadal has achieved major success before their 20th birthday. Furthermore, the development is sport science in recent years have been a massive boost for helping players develop.

So maybe the real problem for Zverev and Co is themselves. 18-year-old Felix Auger Allissme, who is the youngest player to break into the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt back in 1999, fared better at Wimbledon. Reaching the third round before going out to Umbert.

“Pressure got to me, and… it got to a point where it was a bit embarrassing,” The Canadian said following his loss. “It was just tough. I just wasn’t finding ways. I think he just did what he had to do. It was solid.”

For Tsitsipas, he had another explanation for the series of below-par performances. Saying that all of the Next Gen contingent lack consistency on the tour. There are currently six played in the top 50 under the age of 21. Three have those have managed to reach multiple semi-finals of the ATP Tour so far this season – Tsitsipas (6), Auger-Aliassime (5) and Taylor Fritz (3).

“We’ve seen players my age, many years ago. I would like to name Rafa, Roger, seemed very mature and professional what they were doing. They had consistency from a young age. They always did well tournament by tournament without major drops or inconsistency.” The Greek explained.
“Something that we as the Next Gen players lack, including me as well, is this inconsistency week by week. It’s a week-by-week problem basically, that we cannot adjust to that.”

The younger stars of the sport will eventually win at grand slam level. The only thing to wonder if will that happen before the Big Four retire from the sport? Novak Djokovic was just 20 when he won his first title at the 2008 Australian Open. For him, he can relate to the misfortunes of his opponents.

“I remember how it was for me when I won my first slam in 2008. For a few years, I was No.3, No.4 in the world, which was great, but I wasn’t able to make that next step in the Slams and win Slams. I know how that feels.” Said Djokovic.
‘There is time. I understand that people want them to see a new winner of a Grand Slam. They don’t want to see three of us dominating the Slam titles. Eventually, it’s going to come, in about 25 years, then we’ll all be happy [smiling].’ he later joked.

Seven days into Wimbledon, Berrettini and Umbert are left flying the flag for the future generation of the men’s tennis. Both of those will play a member of the Big Four on Monday. Berrettini plays Federer and Umbert faces Federer. It remains to be seen if they can silence critics with a shock win.

Wimbledon fourth round players by age

Roger Federer SWI – 37
Fernando Verdasco ESP – 35
Rafael Nadal ESP – 33
Novak Djokovic SRB – 32
Roberto Bautista Agut ESP – 31
Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ – 31
Sam Querrey USA – 31
Joao Sousa POR – 30
Benoite Paire FRA – 30
Guido Pella ARG – 29
Kei Nishikori JPA – 29
Milos Raonic CAN – 28
David Goffin BEL – 28
Tennys Sandgren USA – 27
Matteo Berrettini ITA – 23
Ugo Humbert FRA – 21

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Bad Boy Nick Kyrgios Is Both Controversial And A Hit With Fans At Wimbledon

Like his career, Kyrgios’ first round win was anything but ordinary at The All England Club. Not that this is a bad thing for the sport.

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Nick Kyrgios of Australia is pictured in action during day four of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 19, 2019.

WIMBLEDON: In the era of the Big Four it takes somebody unique to be able to attract mass interest at a grand slam and Nick Kyrgios without a doubt fits into that category.

 

Known for his unpredictable behavior, the Australian has previously been sanctioned for throwing a chair, allegedly tanking and even lobbing his racket outside of the court. At the same time, he has scored high-profile wins over players such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

During his first round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday, Court Three was packed with fans wanting to see Kyrgios’ clash against compatriot Jordan Thompson. At one stage there was no room for any members of the media to enter. Shouts of ‘come on Nick’ erupted throughout the marathon encounter, which ended with Kyrgios prevailing 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(10), 0-6, 6-1. Setting up a potential blockbuster meeting with Rafael Nadal if he wins his first round match.

“It was incredibly tough,” Kyrgios said following his 213-minute clash. “I think coming into today, Tomo (Thompson) is probably one of the most in-form grass courters of the season. He made his first final in S’hertogenbosch. He’s obviously feeling pretty comfortable on the grass.”

The 24-year-old illustrated why he is one of the most popular characters in the sport during his first round match. At first, it looked as if the world No.43 would be crashing out in no time. Rushing between points and struggling to find any consistency in his play. However, as the match progressed, so did Kyrgios’ level and commitment. Much to the frustration of his opponent and the delight of the British crowd.

A series of failed tweener shots alongside serves exceeding the 130 mph benchmark pretty much summarised his performance. Playing around on the court, Kyrgios undoubtedly entertained everybody with his antics. Prompting laughter on numerous occasions.

“I just go out there, have fun, play the game how I want it to be played,” Kyrgios explained.
“At the end of the day, I know people are going to watch. They can say the way I play isn’t right or he’s classless for the sport, all that sort of stuff. They’re probably still going to be there watching. Doesn’t really make sense.”

It is hard to argue with Kyrgios’ statement when you look at the media back in his home country. Playing at the same time as women’s world No.1 Ash Barty, Channel Seven opted to broadcast live his match instead of hers.

The drama

Of course, it would not be a Kyrgios match if there wasn’t drama. After the second set, he took a medical time out for treatment on his hip/back region. Soon after his fragile temperament was exposed as he grew annoyed by members of the crowd.

“They’re bringing a camera the size of a tennis racket to the court and it’s sunny. Maybe the lens is shining in their eyes. I don’t know. You know?” He said to the umpire.

Following on from that a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct came before a poor line called triggered him off once again.

“I’m playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars out here. Why is the linesman not getting fined? Tell me. Why?” He stated.

Despite those outbursts, Kyrgios still had the crowd fullying backing him. Further proof of his popularity. A 22-point tiebreaker in the third set revived his momentum on the court after prevailing on his eighth set point. Causing more anguish for Thompson. Fittingly the match ended in appropriate Kyrgios style with him getting bageled before racing through the decider. Something he admitted was a ‘tactic.’

Should Kyrgios face Nadal next, it is almost certain their clash will be played on Center Court. The Australian may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is clear that he is a force in the sport.

“I think everyone just goes about their business the way they are. I think that the sport has a serious problem with that. I mean, just because I’m different, I go about it a different way, it causes a stir.” Said Kyrgios.
“I understand that people are different and people are going to play differently. If everyone was the same, it would be very boring, no?’
“I mean, I don’t think there’s a shortage of entertainers. I just think people go about it differently. Different perspectives. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to understand that.”

Love him or hate him, Kyrgios has zero plans of changing his ways.

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